When you show up to work, and put on a uniform, you’re there to do a job. Whether you’re a cashier, a car mechanic, a movie store clerk, or a server, you’re being paid to perform a task to the best of your ability.

While some of us really enjoy our jobs, it’s important to remember there’s an invisible wall around you when you’re on the clock. You’re here as the bargain basement superhero Professional (Wo)Man, and not your secret identity of Average Customer.

Unfortunately, it’s sometimes hard to keep millennials from compromising that secret identity. Worse, though, it isn’t necessarily their fault.

Always The Customer

The facts show that millennials, as a generation, are employed at numbers greater than both Generation X and the Baby Boomers were when they were that age. Millennials are used to having an income of their own, but more than that, they’re used to being treated like customers.

That sounds obvious, but we don’t really think about how complete that customer experience is in a millennial’s life and how little face-to-face interaction they have with the workforce compared to past generations.

Think about college as an example. In the past, students would send their transcripts, and out of the flood of applicants, the college would allow in the best and the brightest. Nowadays, though, like many other businesses outside of the service industry, educational institutions are managed more like service-oriented companies with customer service at the forefront. This means that management is more concerned with keeping students happy than ever before, only furthering the customer mentality of those in attendance. You can see examples such as this throughout the culture that millennials were born into, from how advertising starts targeting people before they’re even old enough to be considered customers to the multitude of services that are provided via the internet, which require little to no face time with workers.

For millennials, their primary experience in the world before they show up to their first day of work is as customers, which is a hard role to step out of if that’s all you know.

Just imagine applying for a job at your favorite restaurant. You know the place, and you’re familiar with the sort of experience a customer expects when they come in. Being in those surroundings where you’re used to being a customer yourself can make it difficult to break out of that mindset. This can be a challenge for managers who are trying to groom their employees to be the best they can be.

Workplace Translation

Because of the culture they’ve grown up in, and their general experiences, millennials often view themselves and their abilities like a form of currency. When they come to the table for a job interview, they want to know what to expect, and what they’ll have to pay in terms of time, energy, and dignity in order to earn their paycheck.

They’re often eager to get to work, and to gain experience, but aren’t willing to just take whatever they’re given.

They are still in a customer head space, and as a result, if they’re not getting what they need, they will walk away in order to find a place where will. On the one hand, this can make millennials seem unwilling to work, or like they expect preferential treatment. However, managers who can work with millennials will find that they are one step ahead of the game when it comes to their employment. They understand that a job is transactional and that they get what they put into it. All you have to do to ensure that millennials put in 110 percent effort is give them the correct incentives to be good employees.

A business can’t function without customers, and it can’t run without good employees; the key is to make sure that the latter isn’t trying to be the former when they’re clocked-in.

Need some ideas on how to make this happen? Check out our blog post on boosting employee engagement for some tips!

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